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for radiocarbon dating. and they all came back with an age of about 1,400 years. keach: in ceren, el salvador, archaeologists had stumbled upon a rare find -- a building made from mud and thatch that should have disintegrated centuries ago. yet here it was. how could it have been preserved for so long ? the 1980 eruption of mount saint helens provides a picture of what happened in ceren 1,400 years ago. sheets: you'd hear a big explosion because it happened all at once. and you'd see a huge black cloud coming at you. when it hit you, it would hit with the temperature of boiling water. so it would actually scald the skin. and your first deep breath would be your last breath. keach: day after day, the volcano at ceren spewed tons of searing ash across the countryside. everything within five kilometers was buried beneath the ash. the homes of the maya were destroyed. ironically, their way of life was preserved. people didn't abandon their things. they left things exactly where they'd placed them. we have an opportunity to study people -- their individual activities, what they did, their successe
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